Crystal Ball Dreams of a Billy Stevens at UTEP

© by Ray Sanchez  08.28.16

Are you ready for the football? You should be.
What a schedule the UTEP Miners came up with this season. They open at the Sun Bowl ray's crystal ballwith rival New Mexico State next Saturday at 6 p.m. then play the Texas Longhorns at Austin and then return to the Sun Bowl to host the Black Knights of Army and Southern Mississippi.
That kind of start is enough to make any football nut’s mouth water.
And how will the Miners do this year? I took my crystal ball out of its drawer and put the question to it. I thought it might be happy what with the great schedule and all but it was its usual obnoxious self.

“WHAT TOOK you so long?” it snarled. “Don’t you know readers have been anxiously awaiting my predictions?”
I gulped. “Waiting anxiously?” I wanted to say. “You’re lucky if anyone gives a hoot.”
But I held my temper. I knew arguing would only delay the outcome.
“Sorry,” I lied. “But how do you see the Miners doing this football season?”
The orb straightened up, cleared its throat in its usual obnoxious official manner and said.

“WELL, LET ME see. The Miners have been looking pretty good in workouts. They’ve come up with a new three-four defense, some new assistant coaches, some promising players in key positions and they have a great running back in Aaron Jones. Then there’s head coach Sean Kugler. He’s in his fourth year at the helm and should know what to do with the talent on hand.
“The question, as is usually the case on every team, is at quarterback. I keep dreaming that someday the Miners will come up with another Billy Stevens. Remember him? He set the team on fire in the 1960s and even led the Miners to two Sun Bowl victories against topnotch opposition. The Miners beat TCU after the 1965 season with Stevens as a sophomore then beat University of Mississippi after the 1967 season with Stevens as a senior. The Miners haven’t
won a bowl game since.”

I STARTED to say that I remembered Billy Stevens well, but the crystal ball growled, “Don’t interrupt. I’m talking.”
I held my temper and the crystal ball went on. “The Miners had three quarterbacks trying out for the starting job this summer, including a newcomer. The newcomer, Zack Greenlee, has shown signs and has earned the starting position but who knows? I don’t take the pre-season hype seriously. I have to see what happens in an actual game.
“There’s no telling what’s out there so far as competition goes. The Miners may be looking great in scrimmage but I’m sure other teams in Conference USA are, too. One never knows what’s going to happen.

“STILL, I HAVE a lot of confidence in coach Kugler. He’s been in the big time of professional football and he seems to have the devotion of his players. That’s important.
“All in all, I think the Miners will have a winning season and go to a bowl game. They’ll surely beat New Mexico State in the opener and might even beat Army at home. Of course, they’ll lose at Texas but they’ll hopefully beat Southern Miss.
“They’ll be 3-1 by the end of September and they’ll go on to be competitive in Conference USA.

“NOW CAN I go back to sleep?” it said. “You have no consideration for my welfare, always asking for my predictions. Don’t you know I get tired?”
I felt like saying, “Tired? You sleep in your drawer all year long except for a couple of interruptions.” But I held back. I’m going to need its predictions again for basketball season. I really hate to say this, but the obnoxious orb is right sometimes.
I gently put it back in its drawer and muttered a few unkind words that I hope the crystal ball didn’t hear.

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